Mind games? Lazy? Oh my.
You have to wonder if Illinois junior guard Ayo Dosunmu realized that his team plays Indiana again in just over a month.
But after the way Donsunmu played in the second half on Saturday afternoon in Champaign, perhaps he just doesn’t care.
There is no debate from either side of Saturday’s game who the difference maker was.
“When it’s time to put the other team away, I try to do that,” Dosunmu said.
“Ayo played at a MVP level tonight,” IU head coach Archie Miller said.
The Illinois All-American guard had 18 points in the final ten minutes of a 69-60 win over IU, and 30 points for the game.
Why Dosunmu was able to take over the game is debatable — and could end up providing a little extra juice to the rematch meeting in Bloomington on Feb. 2.
Dosunmu was asked at what point he decides he is going to try to take games over. He said on this day the door was opened after he set the trap.
“I played a mind game with them,” Dosunmu said of Indiana. “All of my ball screens, they were kind of hard hedging. I was making the right play like six, seven times in a row, so their bigs started getting lazy, started getting complacent. So when I when I was coming off, they were expecting me to keep making the right play, keep hitting the corner. Just playing a mind game with ’em.”
Indiana was in fact hedging ball screens throughout the game — and with a high degree of success. Illinois, which came into the game averaging 90 points per contest had just 44 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
By having a big man hedge a high ball screen, the goal is to get the ball moving backwards and out of the hands of the ball handler while the defense recovers behind the action.
Dosunmu felt he was seeing a pattern with the way Indiana’s big men were hedging as the game wore on.
“At the 9-minute, 10-minute mark I knew they were thinking ‘alright when Ayo comes to this ball screen he’s gonna hit the corner (with a pass)’ and then I saw Trayce Jackson-Davis coming and then leave right away. That’s when I was able to get in there and get a floater off. I got another layup and got some easy transition threes.
“Basically playing a mind game with them,” Dosunmu added. “I’ve been watching a lot of film on them.”
What is interesting about Dosunmu’s comments is that he only scored twice in the final 10 minutes based on the situation he described.
His late scoring outburst started when freshman forward Jordan Geronimo clearly didn’t commit to his hedge, and Dosunmu read that and drove right past Geronimo for layup. That pulled Illinois to within 49-46.
Dosunmu did in fact make a floater when Jackson-Davis similarly didn’t commit to a hard hedge, perhaps to avoid drawing an additional foul. That play gave Illinois an eight point lead at 60-52.
But the true highlight of Dosunmu’s 18-point scoring run was his four makes from behind the three-point line. And none of those makes came off of ball screen actions.
Dosunmu’s final 18 points included 12 points from behind the arc, two from the foul line, and then the four off of the ball screens.
While his three-pointers clearly seemed to be what turned the game, Dosunmu chose to take direct aim at Indiana’s lack of late-game discipline.
“I knew when the game gets long their tendencies started to get lazy,” Dosunmu said. “I just wanted to attack on that pretty much knowing the scouting report.”
Those are comments that seem likely to have Indiana’s attention in a few weeks.
Whether IU can do anything to stop Dosunmu, however, could be a different story.
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